What sort of a starter would you do for this? Not really done one before

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StrontiumDog
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What sort of a starter would you do for this? Not really done one before

Post by StrontiumDog » Sun May 12, 2019 7:01 pm

Hey all, I have a yeast pitching rate question.

I have a basic lager which is 23 ltrs in the fermentor that will go to a standard 19ltr corney keg that's come in with an OG of 1.036, and I have some Safale W-34/70 that I've washed for my last brew (that one was pitched straight from 2 packets after hydration)

As the picture shows I have c.250ml compacted yeast (it's a half litre jar that's just shy of half full) what would people recommend doing regarding a starter? It's been sitting in the fridge since Jan so guessing I shouldn't pitch directly.

I know about yeast pitching calculators to work out how many billion cells is the ideal amount to pitch etc but with no method of counting the viability I currently have, I have no idea what I need to aim for.

All the best

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Re: What sort of a starter would you do for this? Not really done one before

Post by guypettigrew » Sun May 12, 2019 7:10 pm

About 20-50 ml of your yeast in a litre of 1.040 wort should be fine. Scoop it out with a well sanitised ladle, then you can either use more later on, or re-harvest from the brew you're planning.

Guy

Ps I have read that collecting dried yeast isn't a good idea, but I've no idea why this would be so!

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Re: What sort of a starter would you do for this? Not really done one before

Post by IPA » Mon May 13, 2019 6:58 am

Before you make a starter taste the beer in the jar. If it tastes good then make a litre starter with one tablespoon of the yeast. If it tastes sour bung it down the toilet.
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Re: What sort of a starter would you do for this? Not really done one before

Post by guypettigrew » Mon May 13, 2019 7:12 am

IPA wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 6:58 am
Before you make a starter taste the beer in the jar. If it tastes good then make a litre starter with one tablespoon of the yeast. If it tastes sour bung it down the toilet.
Excellent advice!!

Guy

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Re: What sort of a starter would you do for this? Not really done one before

Post by StrontiumDog » Mon May 13, 2019 7:22 am

Guy, IPA, massively appreciate the advice that was exactly what I was after. There's so much in depth talk about some of these things and sometimes straightforward clear guidance is all that's needed. Perfect.

Thanks again both

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Re: What sort of a starter would you do for this? Not really done one before

Post by StrontiumDog » Mon May 13, 2019 10:41 pm

Sorry chaps, another thought occured to me.

So I've done as you both recommended and it's on the stir plate happily spinning away. I've read that for lager I should pitch twice as much, should I have done a 2 litre starter with 2 spoons or will I be ok with the 1 litre and 1 spoon?

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Re: What sort of a starter would you do for this? Not really done one before

Post by guypettigrew » Tue May 14, 2019 7:35 am

I think using twice as much yeast refers to dried yeast. In other words, use two packs instead of one.

Your starter should give you loads of yeast. What temperature will you be fermenting at?

And I've just re-read your original post. Have you already made the lager wort and got it sitting in your fermenter?

Guy

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Re: What sort of a starter would you do for this? Not really done one before

Post by StrontiumDog » Tue May 14, 2019 7:51 am

Ah ok thanks.

Yeah I have, made the cardinal sin of pitching some washed yeast straight in without a starter (as I wasn't too sure how much to make) so now back tracking as it's not taken off. I might have ruined it, I might not. It's sitting in a conical (fermentersaurus) so I can ditch the old rubbish yeast. I've tried rowsing it but it just doesn't want to play. Even if this has ballsed up, the starter is going well so at least I've learnt something!

Fermenting at 13°C as per the instructions for this strain

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Re: What sort of a starter would you do for this? Not really done one before

Post by Kev888 » Tue May 14, 2019 1:36 pm

If the slurry was high quality fresh stuff (days old, rather than weeks) then you should get away without a starter, as 250ml is really quite a lot. But if it is a little older and/or if it wasn't the best quality then yes, it would have been safer to make a starter, if for no other reason than to make sure it was well and reduce the lag time.

Generally speaking, you would want to pitch more cells for lager yeast than for ale yeast, roughly twice as many so yes a double sized starter (compared to ale yeast) is quite common. Opinions differ quite widely as to the optimum pitching rate, so you will need to decide what works best for you, but something like 500-800ml would suit an ale yeast for your batch, whilst something like 1.8L would be about the ball-park for lager yeast.

TBH if this type of yeast was biologically contaminated then I would just have bought fresh, rather than trying to wash it (e.g. with acid). If you just meant it was 'rinsed' (i.e. with water simply to remove foreign gunk) then thats less risky - provided you don't contaminate it in the process and don't discard the good stuff by mistake. Though there often isn't very much benefit, unless perhaps there is so much other crud in there that you don't know how much actual yeast you have, so personally I don't often bother with it.
Kev

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Re: What sort of a starter would you do for this? Not really done one before

Post by StrontiumDog » Fri May 17, 2019 7:42 am

Thanks again everyone, and yes Kev I meant rinsing with water, apologies, wrong terminology.

Thought I'd give an update.

So, my batch is going down the drain lol. I brewed it on Saturday and there's still no activity, I've ordered some dry yeast but by the time it gets here it'll have been sitting a week. I'm confident with my sanitation but don't think it's worth the riso. But here's the thing.....

I have previously been harvesting w-34/70 and pitching a few weeks later with no problems at all. Got a bit cocky and did the same thing this time and still got nothing. Should have listened to every other thread in the whole world of home-brewing and made starter, lesson learned. Interesting thing is this; I had some more yeast left over (from a batch in January, same as what I put in the fermenter to start with) so got that on to my stir plate in a 1.040 1-litre starter (as per previous thread)..... Nothing. Didn't ferment. Ok, figure I have a batch of dead yeast, it happens. I also had a jar of yeast from the brew I did before, same strain, 3 weeks previous. I increased this to a 2-litre starter as recommended for pitching lager yeast. Now 2 days in on the stir plate and again, nothing!

This feels unusual to me, why would both my jars of yeast be dead? I've only reused the yeast a few times so can only be on 3rd or 4th generation and they've been kept clean (certainly no off smells) and refrigerated. I know people say to not keep yeast any more than a couple of weeks (and even this opinion varies) but I've done this before with no trouble at all and it seems others do too - I don't brew massively often so I can't afford to keep buying fresh yeast every time I brew (and w-34/70 isn't cheap!)

Come to think of it, why do they sell them in 11g packs saying 'enough for a 5 gallon batch' when actually you need 2? Anyway, I'm rambling now.

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Re: What sort of a starter would you do for this? Not really done one before

Post by Kev888 » Fri May 17, 2019 10:09 am

There are loads of factors, so it is hard to guess, there have even been cases where the starter worked but just didn't look like it had done much. But FWIW perhaps the main concerns are the health of the yeast you collected (e.g. yeast from a high gravity or otherwise stressful brew won't be as good as those from a normal gravity one) and in particular how well and how long they were stored for.

Assuming the slurry is healthy then it is okay to re-pitch direct if there is a lot and it is quite fresh, but it really does start to lose viability quite quickly. If you want to store it for a couple of weeks then keep it under some of the beer that it made (i.e. don't wash it and then keep it in water), and keep it cool in the fridge but not frozen. The Mr Malty calculator (free if used from a desktop computer) has a slurry tab that will help you work out what kind of amounts of slurry might be needed at what age, it is only a rough guide but better than completely guessing. Make sure to select 'lager' yeast and the other parameters for your brew.

Once viablity gets low (or typically beyond a couple/few weeks IMO), then ideally a starter would be made. The yeast shouldn't be dead (unless something bad happened) but will decrease in number of viable cells as time goes on, so will take progressively more effort or time to grow up in number again. As it gets older still (say months) a stepped starter would be better than a single one, to grow the numbers up in stages.

There are various ways to collect and store yeast, and other methods entirely such as splitting the fresh yeast rather than re-using/harvesting them. But most methods (except directly re-pitching slurry) will involve starters and time. If economy is the key objective then saving boiled wort from brew-day rather than buying extract for the starters can help with that.
Kev

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Re: What sort of a starter would you do for this? Not really done one before

Post by guypettigrew » Fri May 17, 2019 10:38 am

StrontiumDog wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 7:42 am
why would both my jars of yeast be dead?
Two possibilities spring to mind--neither may apply to you, but both are things I thought might have caused my yeast viability to drop too far on a few occasions some time ago.

Firstly, I was getting overexcited about sanitising the container the yeast was going to be stored in. I think what happened was that I didn't leave the Starsan long enough to drain, left too much in the jar. and it killed the yeast.

Secondly, the yeast was being kept at the bottom of the 'fridge. Possibly too cold.

Neither of these factors may have had anything to do with why my yeast viability became too low to ferment either a starter or the wort, or maybe they did!

Since stopping doing both these things the stored yeast have been fine and sprung back to life in a starter even after a couple of months.

Guy

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